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Is Summer Almost Over Already?

The end of summer always sneaks up on us too quickly. It seems that one minute we are enjoying quality times with our family and friends without having to worry about the pile of papers waiting on the dining room table to be graded before going to bed, and the next minute, a certain office supply store starts running a commercial with a man dancing in the isles to Christmas music while his children sadly pick out school supplies.

One of my favorite parts about the summer is meeting new teachers at conferences and workshops and learning something new. I would like to take a moment and share with you some great resources I learned about this summer, and I hope after reading this post you will do the same and perhaps add a comment here (no need to register, sign up or otherwise open yourself to spam – just click comment below – I swear its easy!).

To begin with, CSTA just launched a new resource called the Source web repository. The Source is a searchable database of lessons, activities, and other useful materials for the computing teacher. (yes computing – thats right! Level 1 of the curriculum standards is nicely aligned with the NETS standards so even elementary and middle school computing teachers should be able to find information as more lessons get added!) We are adding new resources daily so check back with this blog to find highlights of new activities from time to time. You can reach the Source web repository either directly at http://csta.villanova.edu or through the link on the left hand side of the main CSTA web page.

Google has also made the Computer Science Unplugged materials available free for download at http://www.google.com/educators/activities.html. I strongly suggest that you check out the main google for educators site as there are a lot of interesting things there for classrooms of all types and ages.

Well, I hope that you found my links useful, now how about one of your own? It could be your personal web page if you have some nifty lessons, it could be a site you visit often for information, or it could just be an activity or an idea that you use in your classrooms that you think others might find useful. Don't be shy! And thanks in advance for your contributions.

Leigh Ann Sudol
CSTA Publications Chair


I love the CS Unplugged activities, too! In my teacher workshops the teachers did the sorting network and had a great time with that. I also do activities from the Kinesthic Learning Activities group http://ws.cs.ubc.ca/~kla/index.php like the Human Binary Tree and the Flowchart Hopscotch.

My favorite new thing this year is Greenfoot (www.greenfoot.org) especially for AP teachers. It is a framework for 2D animations and games in Java. You can do the GridWorld case study in it, and Karel the Robot, and Marine Biology and more. What I love is that you can go beyond the grid as well as shown in the ants and food scenario or the piano scenario.

Summer gives me the opportunity to learn new things. This summer I went to Atlanta and to the CSTA Symposium. I was in Bristol, RI for an Alice workshop in mid July.

I've been learning XNA which is for programming an XBOX 360 and I've been taking an online course at 3dbuzz.com.

Finally, my school purchased some new curriculum called Web Game Design that I'll use with my web design students. The curriculum can be found at isupportlearning.com.

All in all, it was a productive summer of learning for me.

Summer offers a multitude of opportunities for teachers to gain new knowledge and this summer was exactly that for me. Being new to the CS field, I found the annual Computer Science and Information Technology Symposium (CSIT) in Atlanta, Georgia offered me experiences that have broadened my knowledge as I step back into the classroom.

I think the single most important experience I had this summer was networking with others at the CSTA Symposium. This was my first time for attending CS&IT and I met so many other high school and middle school CS teachers from around the country. I feel as though I am taking a part of each one of them back to school with me as the new school year starts.

While at the symposium I had several other opportunities to learn new ideas. Having a conversation with Barb Ericson, I learned about Scratch and have made plans to include it in my middle school classes.

Through a workshop, I learned about XNA, which allows students to create game code for the X Box system. XNA is above the ability of most of my middle school students, but I hope to some day expand my current program into our high school. XNA might be something that I can use at the high school level. I was energized as I watched Tim Bell present CS Unplugged. This is an area that I haven't explored further but hope to in the future.

This summer has been an exciting one for me. Through conversations with my colleagues from around the country, I have networked and now built a support system of people to call upon when I need help. I hope that some summer in the future, I will be able to return the support to someone else.

Dave Burkhart
CSTA Board of Directors

What I did this summer...

1. I went to Parallax, Inc. to learn about their robots. I already had some experience with them as the very nice folks at RidgeSoft use their bots for the basis of their products, and I wanted to learn a bit about the electronics as I am not a hardware person.

I am convinced that robotics--not in the sense of what is done at something like FIRST, but in the sense of learning programming--is likely to be a core approach in the future. Karel was a great idea, but Karel need not be virtual any more!

One of the things that I found interesting is that there were three junior high teachers from Davis who were teaching kids to program in BASIC using the robots. It seems like I spend a good chunk of my time thinking about what can be done on the high school level. Middle school kids can handle programming, too. It may be as simple as setting the bar higher when it comes to expectations.

2. Slept as much as I could. Hey, I refuse to apologize. The school year wears me out!


Josh Paley, Teacher
Henry M. Gunn HS (Palo Alto, CA)
President, Silicon Valley chapter of the CSTA

This summer is the first summer in many years I did not teach summer school. My husband thought I would have a very relaxed summer; he was rather surprised. I was offered so many professional development opportunities that I could not pass them up. Consequently I was away from home more than I was at home.

The first professional development activity I participated in was the CSIT Symposium in Atlanta, Georgia. I also was introduced to the CS Unplugged activites and am looking forward to incorporating them into my AP Computer Science class this year.

The next workshop was an A.P. Workshop at Carnegie Mellon. I enjoyed the presentations by the professors and Judy Hromcik. She presented an activity to introduce arrays using twist off bottle caps glued to cardboard to represent the arrays. I am now in the process of collecting twist off bottle caps.

Immediately following the A.P. Workshop I attended the CS4HS also at Carnegie Mellon. There were so many ideas presented at this 3 day event that I do not have the time to discuss all of them. The robotics presentation was wonderful and inspiring and so was the lecture by Alan Kay. He really gave us food for thought!

My next activity was to prepare for the case study workhshop that I volunteered to present at Chapman University. Not only did myself and another high school teacher lead the teachers through the case study and give them insight into it, but the teachers asked some probing questions that as a group we were able to wrestle with and answer. Now, I feel so prepared to work with the case study this year!

Also during the case study workshop, one teacher told me about an online learning management system that my county office is offering free. I had wanted to use one because I have dramatically increased the enrollment in my CS class. I needed a system to help with handling paperwork. I now have that in place and am looking forward to starting the school year next week!

I then attended an Alice workshop at Cal State Dominguez Hills. One of the many ideas they presented that I will use is Storyboarding. I plan to start my students on this immediately so that they understand that planning is important to programming.

My last workshop was this week. It was ACME Animation http://www.edutopia.org/learning-pros. I plan to continue using this program with my Computer Club this year. I also plan to use the animation techniques with my Alice curriculum. One activity in particular that I will use with my AP Comp Sci students is the short movie. I will demonstrate some of the movies that we were given in the workshop, have the students critique them and then their final Alice project will be to create a short movie that has the same animation principles.

I am just amazed at all of the professional development opportunities that we have as computer science teachers. I am just thankful that I was in a position to take advantage of all of these. I am also a math teacher but these opportunities were not available in math. If the math gurus would just take notice .....

From the International point of view: In Israel we run each summer a three days seminar for leading teachers. This seminar is conducted by Dr. Tami Lapidot (who chairs the Israeli Center for CS teachers) and Dr. Dan Aharoni. They presented a poster describing the seminar in the last ITiCSE conference this summer in Dundee Scotland. You can go to the seminar's web site, and at least enjoy the photos (as most of it is in Hebrew). http://cse.proj.ac.il/seminar2007/index.htm
One of the main goals of the Israeli National Center
for Computer Science Teachers is to foster professional
leadership of CS teachers. This is achieved in many ways, one is the summer seminar. The three-day seminars include lectures (by CS academic
researchers or Hi-Tech industry leading researchers), workshops
and special "show and tell" sessions.
The lectures expose the seminars? Participants to state-of-the-art
CS issues that are not usually addressed by the regular high school
curriculum. These have the dual benefit of bringing CS teachers
and researchers into closer dialog, and in giving the teachers
valuable new ideas for their classrooms.
The seminars include a vital part of "show and tell" sessions, were
all participants are required to prepare a short presentation. It can
be a pedagogical problem they wish to share with their
colleagues, pedagogical tips or interesting assignments.
Social interactions are essential to increase the group identity and
strengthen relations among the leading teachers. Therefore, the
academic program is blended with social events, joint meals,
coffee breaks, and free time for "corridor talks". These social
activities indeed proved themselves as a great tool in the group
formation and helped remove barriers among the teachers.
I participated in the seminar this year, and enjoyed tremendously, glad to see how enthusiastic CS can be, knowing they will successfully convey the basics computer science to their students.

My summer learning is stretching into the fall. I'm reading a book I'd like to recommend to every teacher and parent of children born since 1982 who make up the Millennial Generation. The book is "Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation" by Neil Howe and William Strauss. Neil Howe is a senior advisor to the Concord Coalition and senior policy advisor to the Blackstone Group.

This book is very enlightening and, I must say, presents a very optimistic view of the future as this particular generation achieves and grows to lead our country. He describes the collective persona of the students you face in your classrooms as special, sheltered, confident, team-oriented, achieving, pressured and conventional. Each of these traits has been developed through cultural influences and the efforts of parents and teachers alike.

What I found most useful from an educator's perspective, are the implications all of this has for teachers as they develop learning activities, plan for classroom management, and interact with these students and their parents. Needless to say, some of the teaching styles so comfortable for those of us who are not "Millenials" are less than effective and perhaps downright useless when used with these students.

I think you will find this book enlightening, promising, and positive. I found myself saying again and again, "That explains a lot!"


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